I am Cosmo’s resident party pooper. It’s my best quality, I’m fun at birthdays, etc. But really—as soon as a new ingredient starts trending, I get skeptical. Where’s the proof? Where are the peer-reviewed studies? Where’s the panel of derms touting its magical efficacy?! So when the CBD skincare craze blew up last year, I dutifully tested a few products, didn’t see results, looked at the lack of research around CBD, and promptly denounced the whole thing as dumb. Because I’m an ASSHOLE. But then I met Derek Chase.
Chase is the founder of Flora + Bast, a CBD-based skincare/wellness brand. If you could get a PhD in cannabis, Chase would have five. Like, think of the most informed, intense, cosplay-level, lore-citing fanatic of Game of Thrones, multiply them by 100, and they still wouldn’t compare to Chase’s knowledge of all things CBD—an infinite spectrum of facts, figures, and laws that he can happily spout off like a kid talking about his favorite cartoon.
So when Chase told me about Flora + Bast’s Age Adapting CBD Face Serum, omitting all the usual fluffy, airy CBD “speak” in favor of a dissertation on hemp, terpenes, CBC, CBG, CBGA, percentages, skin metabolism, CB1 and CB2 receptors—*breaths*—it was enough to convince me, the hater, to go ahead and try the damn serum. And holy shit, to my actual surprise and mildly bruised ego, it was freaking excellent.
Hold up: WTF is CBD supposed to do?
If you ask the uninformed, topical CBD is supposed to do ~*eVeRyThInG*~ including turning your face into a perfect slab of marble. Aaand people can claim that because there isn’t a lot of research (yet) around the relatively new ingredient. Still, the studies that do exist are promising: Topical CBD has been shown to help soothe inflammatory skin diseases (like psoriasis and dermatitis), along with regulate your skin’s oil production (which, in turn, can help decrease acne).
“CBD also has natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can be helpful in reducing irritation and free-radical damage,” says dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor at Yale School of Medicine. So basically, if you’re prone to breakouts, dryness, and irritation—me!—CBD should, theoretically, be a magic wand.
The issue? Most CBD-based skincare products are poorly regulated. A 2017 study found that almost 70 percent of online CBD products were mislabeled—with 26 percent them containing way less cannabidiol than stated. So that CBD cream or oil you’ve been slathering on your face every night may contain virtually no active or helpful CBD (which is what I suspect happened to me years ago when I first dismissed the craze).
“Potency is still a total crapshoot, and the percentages aren’t standardized, so you never really know how much CBD is in the product until you test it,” says Chase. “When we first started the brand, we tested almost every CBD skincare product on the market and found the levels to be completely off for most of them.” So how do you know if the formula you’re using is good? “The brands that do it right, you’ll be able to see an effect on your skin—and those that don’t, you won’t,” he says. Which brings us to…
The magical CBD serum
Listen, the smartest, smoothest talker in the world couldn’t get me to put something on my supremely sensitive face if the ingredients were trash (not even you, Oprah, sry). But the Age Adapting Serum has exactly three ingredients: MCTs (triglycerides) and two types of cannabidiol (hemp seed and hemp oil). Basically, if you’re going to try the purest, simplest, least-risky form of CBD skincare, this is it.
The “serum” is more like a serum-oil hybrid—heavier than serum, but less greasy than an oil. Which means it can be applied to your skin underneath your moisturizer (which is ideal to get the CBD closest to your skin), and can also be layered under your makeup without messing up your beat (though I would probably only use it in the P.M. for oily skin or summer temps).
For me, I drip it over my clean, slightly damp skin every morning and night: two drops over my forehead, and two on each cheek before massaging it in. I usually wait a minute or two for it to kinda, sorta sink in, then layer on my moisturizer. And…that’s it. There aren’t any bells or whistles or immediate results—with CBD, it’s about the long game, especially with a serum as simple as this one.
“Most CBD serums you see are water-based to help give you an immediate plumping and hydrating effect, but using water requires you to add a bunch of other ingredients to the formula to stabilize and preserve it,” says Chase. “We didn’t want to do that. We have this amazing active—like it’s not fairy dust, we have actual high-quality, incredibly good cannabis—and we didn’t want to mess it up just to give people some temporary plumping effect. It’s definitely a harder sell to costumers, because it takes a few weeks to see benefits, but it’s worth it to us.”
The CBD results
Because there aren’t immediate effects—which, in hindsight, would have been good to know when I didn’t wake up with magically transformed skin—I definitely felt a little bummed when my skin looked the exact same after a few days. But I also didn’t develop any breakouts or irritation, so I kept on using it, since at the very least, it was hydrating my dry winter skin.
And then one day, two weeks later, I noticed my skin looked…good. My rosacea was calmer, my skin looked brighter, and I just looked…better? I chalked it up to a random good-skin day, waited for reality to hit the next morning, but it never did. I continued to have good-skin days every single day for months, to the point where “good” is my new normal—not a fluke.
I’m not saying it completely fixed my face; I have inflammatory stuff (KP, rosacea, allergies) that’s in my DNA and can only be managed, not cured. But it’s the first non-prescription thing I’ve put on my skin that had absolutely zero side effects—only positive results.
So am I a CBD convert? Actually, yes. Against all odds, I, the pooper, fully believe in the powers of CBD now—provided it’s the high-quality, hard-core vetted cannabidiol. Which means until some regulations are put in place, I’ll be sticking with this serum that really, truly works.
Senior Beauty Editor
Chloe Metzger is the senior beauty editor at Cosmopolitan, obsessively writing about new makeup launches, the best hair products (curly girl here; whattup), and the skincare formulas that really work for every skin type (follow her on Instagram to see behind-the-scenes pics of that magazine life).